Monday, September 21, 1998 Published at 12:00 GMT 13:00 UK
Book your place
Children will be encouraged to read more widely
By BBC News Online's Adrian Dalingwater
A high-profile campaign designed to transform Britain's attitude to reading has begun.
The National Year of Reading, which is set to run throughout the current school year, will promote the written word in all its forms.
A key plank of the government's drive to improve standards of literacy, it aims to encourage children and young people to read more regularly and to use a wider variety of material, including fiction and non-fiction books, magazines, newspapers and CD-roms.
The government wants to see 80% of all 11-year-olds in England reaching the standards expected of their age in English by the year 2002. Around 60% reach that target at the moment.
Ministers say teachers alone cannot raise children's literacy standards to the necessary levels, hence the need for a national campaign.
Television programmes, including the BBC soap opera Eastenders, have agreed to run plot lines to get the message across.
The campaign also aims to highlight the position of people who do not find it easy to read, including those with learning difficulties or disabilities, and provide them with more opportunities to access written material.
Many other parts of the government's national literacy strategy will begin during the next school year.
These include a dedicated hour for literacy in every primary school in England and the intensive training of primary teachers in the teaching of reading and writing.
The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, says the National Year of Reading is aimed at children and parents, avid readers and those who rarely read at all.
"To turn the page of a book is to open a window on the world," he said.
"Books are the foundation on which other learning can be built. Learning to read is one of the most liberating things we can ever do."